The Turnbull government says detainees on Manus Island will be removed by 'lawful means' before the end of the month.
With just two weeks to go until the Manus Island offshore detention centre is closed on October 31, the federal government has not categorically ruled out cutting off the water supply and sewerage to move detainees on.
“Papua New Guinea, with Australia’s support, will close the Manus regional processing centre by the 31st of October,” said Michaelia Cash, representing Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in the Senate on Monday.
Senator Cash confirmed that the Papua New Guinea Immigration and Citizenship Service has already found alternative accommodation in Manus Province - the larger group of islands - for the detainees.
“Will you categorically rule out the use of force to remove refugees from the Manus Island prison and will you further categorically rule out cutting off water and electricity from the Manus Island prison in order to coerce people to leave?” Greens senator Nick McKim asked during question time in the upper house.
“It is not a prison, and Senator McKim, you know that torture can never be used, and quite frankly it is an insult that you would even raise that,” Senator Cash said.
“Anybody will be removed by lawful means.”
The government struck a deal with the United States to resettle an unspecified number of refugees from Manus and Nauru, but it has since been criticised by President Donald Trump.
A first batch of 54 refugees from Manus were notified of their acceptance to the US in September, with 24 flying out a few days later. Hundreds more remain at the camp.
Senator Cash said that refugees who have already expressed an interest in being resettled in the US could also volunteer to be transferred to the offshore detention centre on Nauru.
She confirmed that people who are not found to be genuine refugees will be given assistance by the federal government to return to their country of origin.
If they refuse to return, they will be forced to leave Papua New Guinea by the PNG government.